Non-Stick Cookware Dangers: Is Your Cookware Causing Cancer?


The safety of nonstick cookware has been called into question recently with concerns it might be causing illness. Are we really at risk? Image courtesy flickr user: idovermani

Some experts have started to ask, “Could our cookware be slowly killing us?” It’s a highly debated issue and one that causes a lot of confusion. You may think that making home cooked meals is the best way to keep your family healthy, but those sautéed veggies and home cooked noodles may be more dangerous than you think if you are making your meals in non-stick cookware.

Here at Viewpoints we decided to look into this phenomena of nonstick cookware dangers to see if it is fact or fiction.

Why is there confusion?

The Environmental Protection Agency labeled PFOA, the chemical released when heating Teflon (which is used in making nonstick cookware), a likely carcinogen in 2006. However, cancer studies haven’t proven any conclusive results, and the American Cancer Society does not list Teflon as a carcinogen. The ACS does state that Teflon can release polymer fumes that cause flu-like symptoms in humans and can be deadly to birds.

It is also often thought that there are negative health effects from ingesting chemicals from non-stick materials that flake off if scratched, but there is no evidence of this occurring.

Why is Non-Stick Cookware Dangerous?

Studies conclude that if a non-stick pan is heated over 500 degrees (450 degrees for certain brands), 15 types of toxic gases and particles can penetrate your lungs. After the Teflon study was released, manufacturer DuPont confirmed that its non-stick pans shouldn’t be heated over 500 degrees, and other companies have followed suit by including a warning on their product. Heating the pans over the allotted temperature, either in the oven or on the stove can result in: damage to organ function, thyroid disease and problems in sexual development including low sperm counts according to

Why Is Non-Stick Cookware So Popular?

Non-stick cookware is popular because it doesn’t require any additional butter or oil to prevent food from sticking, offering the health benefits of reduced calories. The clean up efforts are also reduced as you don’t need soaking time or elbow grease to remove cooked on food particles.

Options Instead of Non-Stick Cookware

New York-based local food expert Jeff Orlick says cast-iron pans are an excellent alternative to non-stick cookware, specifically those that are not pre-oiled. “You want to get a material that is as basic as possible, not with added chemicals in it,” Orlick explained. “Cast-iron is probably what your grandmother used. Also, these pans have an extremely long shelf life. There are restaurants that have been using the same pans for over 50 years.” Many recommend Le Creuset cookware, and our reviewers our big fans of everything from Le Creuset Stoneware to the Le Creuset French Oven.

The Safest Non-Stick Cookware

If you want to continue using non-stick cookware, there are a few rules to abide by to find the best and safest non-stick cookware:

T-Fal Nonstick Cookware

T-Fal Nonstick Cookware

  • Only buy larger non-stick cookware pans. Smaller pans heat up more quickly and are more likely to give off fumes. For instance, the T-Fal Non-Stick 3-Quart Handy Pot is a larger non-stick pot great for simmering soups and sauces.
  • If you do buy smaller non-stick pans or cookware, be sure it doesn’t heat up to high temperatures and make sure your food covers the surface area.
  • Don’t ever heat an empty pan. You won’t be able to sear meat at such a low temperature, but you should still be able to do a good amount of cooking. For any non-stick cooking necessities, try out the Calphalon One Nonstick 16-Piece set.
  • Turn on your kitchen range hood fan when using a Teflon fan.

Still looking for that perfect non-stick pan without all those chemicals? Experts recommend using anodized aluminum cookware, especially hard anodized cookware, to avoid non-stick cookware dangers. It is even more durable, resistant to corrosion and lightweight than the average pan. It is non-toxic and the perfect non-stick cookware for browning meat or mixing up a stir-fry. Try out Calphalon Hard Anodized Cookware.

Do you struggle with healthy cooking or finding the best non-stick pan? Let us know, and write a review of your favorite cookware. You can even check out our ideas for Appliances That Will Help You Cook Healthier


Marly Schuman Marly Schuman (84 Posts)

Marly Schuman is a former content specialist at Viewpoints.